The original goal of the Higher Education Act was to ensure that every American has access to higher education, regardless of income or zip code. Disinvestment in higher education after the Great Recession halted progress toward that goal. In the 2016-17 school year, states invested $9 billion less in public colleges and universities than they did in 2008 (after adjusting for inflation), according to the independent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Students and families — not public dollars — now fund the bulk of core educational expenses. At the same time, educational support services have shrunk, making it difficult for students to make appropriate choices among programs and degrees, complete coursework in a timely way and navigate challenges to college completion. The GOP’s proposed rewrite of the law, the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508), would exacerbate those problems by eliminating loan-forgiveness for public service, capping student loans, and relaxing oversight of for-profit schools with a history of preying on at-risk students. NEA opposes the PROSPER Act in its current form.
In contrast to the PROSPER Act, the Aim Higher Act (H.R. 6543), introduced by Rep. Scott (D-VA) as the democratic alternative, would create a debt-free path to a college degree or certification, making it easier and more affordable for all Americans preparing them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Its provisions include measures to make borrowing less expensive, revives the Perkins Loan Program, improves the TEACH grant program and improves accountability provisions. The NEA strongly supports the Aim Higher Act to help make high-quality higher education affordable and accessible to all.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Caucus aims to preserve PSLF, which encourages students to pursue careers in education, firefighting, law enforcement, and other forms of public service. Rep. Joyce (R-OH), along with 12 republican colleagues, expressed the importance of PSLF in an April 2018 letter to House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Foxx (R-NC), as a valuable public service recruitment and retention tool.
In addition, the FY2019 funding bill signed into law maintains – or level funded – the $350 million funding for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The PSLF program was first funded in FY2018 and the continued support for the program is crucial because it encourages college graduates to pursue careers in public service.
The College for All Act (S. 806/H.R. H.R. 1880), introduced in April 2017 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), would make community college free and eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year — about 80 percent of the population. The bill also cuts student loan interest rates in half and would allow student loans to be refinanced when interest rates drop.